Protecting your assets from creditors, lawsuits, liens and judgments so that your family or domestic partner can inherit more as well as reducing your estate taxes can be done by combining a number of different estate planning techniques. Using trusts and forming a family company are some of the best methods to preserve and shield your assets so that when the time comes for you to pass them on to your family, you know that they are intact and your family can inherit more after your death. Other thought should be directed towards advance directives while you are still living to deal with your legal and financial matters if you become physically or mentally incapacitated, such as a power of attorney, health care proxy and living will.
An experienced New York estate planning lawyer can help your develop your advanced comprehensive estate plan taking into consideration the estate, gift and pension laws to meet your immediate and future goals making sure that your family and loved ones are taken care of while you are still living and after you pass away, saving them unnecessary probate, legal and estate tax costs.
The following should be considered as part of your basic estate planning:
- Will and trust, which provides for the distribution of your assets after you pass away so your family can avoid probate costs and delays.
- Living will with instructions regarding end of life care.
- Health care proxy for decisions regarding medical consent and treatments when you are unable to make them on your own.
- Power of attorney, which provides for the appointment of someone to act as your legal agent in connection with financial and legal matters when you are incapacitated or unable to do so on your own.
- Child care guardianship matters for minor children or disabled children if applicable if neither parent survives or a surviving parent becomes incapacitated.
- Burial and funeral arrangements.
- Charitable remainder/life insurance trusts.
It is important to have a valid legal under New York law which directs your executor who to distribute your assets to. In order to avoid probate of your assets, you can hold assets jointly, gift them to your loved ones, name a beneficiary or transfer them to a trust. Failing to make a will, means that you would intestate and certain beneficiaries would have a statutory priority over others under New York law to inherit your assets. This means that your assets may not be distributed to the persons you intended.
Forming an irrevocable trust for the benefit of your family shields your assets from creditors and allows for the automatic transfer of the assets to your beneficiaries avoiding probate and court delays. There are other types of trusts that you may want to form as well such as a Life Insurance Trust or a Combination Life Insurance and Charitable Remainder Trust or Credit Shelter Trust.
Life Insurance Trust. With a life insurance trust, your life insurance policy is transferred to the trust. You can then take advantage of the $13,000 annual federal gift tax exemption by gifting the $13,000 to your trust and using the money to pay for your life insurance premiums. Upon your death, the life insurance proceeds are paid to your trust and your children and other designated beneficiaries under the trust agreement receive the insurance proceeds in either one tax free lump sum or over a period of time. Your estate avoids paying estate taxes on the money because it is owned by the trust and not included as part of the total value of your estate. Right now, estates valued at $5,120,000 or under do not have to pay estate taxes. However, after January 1, 2013, the exemption is reduced to $1,000,000, if Congress does not extend it by December 31, 2012.
Combined Life Insurance Trust and Charitable Remainder Trust. By combining the life insurance and the charitable remainder trusts. This trust allows you to put a portion of the principal of your estate in a charitable remainder trust for the benefit of a charity of your choice, while you receive the income during your lifetime. The income can be used to pay your life insurance premiums because the insurance policy is owned by the trust. By taking advantage of the $13,000 gift exemption, your trust saves taxes on the income. When you die, the charity gets a substantial amount of money and your estate gets the tax savings benefits as well.
Credit Shelter Trust. A credit shelter trust is a good way for a married couple to save estate taxes. Two irrevocable trusts are formed. When one spouse dies, the trusts are split apart into Trust A and Trust B. If your estate is worth $2,000,000, then you would split $1,000,000 into each trust taking advantage of the federal estate tax exemption of $1,000,000 that goes into effect as of January 1, 2013, unless Congress decides to extend the current exemption of $5,120,000. Trust A holds your assets and your surviving spouse receives income from these assets. Since the Trust B also holds $1,000,000, giving your spouse control of the assets during your spouse’s lifetime. After your surviving spouse passes away, the beneficiaries (typically your children) receive the money tax free because it is within the federal estate tax exemption. The assets from Trust A are also transferred to your beneficiaries tax free. Your beneficiaries get to inherit your $2,000,000 estate tax free.
Family LLC or Partnership. Forming a family LLC or partnership for your business or real estate investments allows your family to take advantage of the federal $13,000 gift tax exemption as well. You and/or your spouse become managers/ members of the LLC or general partners of the partnership that holds the majority interests in the assets and gift percentages of the LLC or partnership to your children. So you and your spouse can each gift $13,000 of the fair market value of your family LLC or partnership which helps you reduce the gross value of your estate at the time of your death and protects your assets from creditors at the same time.
New York Estate Planning Attorney
Advance estate planning should be considered by everyone to protect their assets so their family can inherit more. A NY estate lawyer can help you develop an estate plan that meets your family’s immediate and long term financial needs. We can draft a will, trust, power of attorney and other advanced directive legal documents as well as handle routine probate and estate matters. Give us a call. We will help.